Letters to Holly

Friday, June 12

Almost Done, Almost Starting.

Your Sis had a light day at school, but parent conferences continue. One student decided to writer her final research paper as an expanded outline, and no adult could explain it. If she had decided to write it in Mandarin, they couldn't be more surprised.

Today's conference concerns a failed paper that discarded all citations. That's technically plagiarism, and that's an automatic zero.
The child, I'm told, had a tantrum, a literal tantrum, over the grade, and his helicopter mom wants to talk about whatever can be done to allow her golden child to pass the paper. She's a parent infamous through the school for her dotage, and there's no telling how tenacious she'll be. Your Sister worries about meetings with such parents, and I try to reassure her by reminding her that the parent can be given a first-class ticket in my sun rocket.

I ran again last night, and it hurt. I ran too fast, and it was too hot, and it had been too long since I last ran. Wah.

Your Sister was to go visit her college buddy across the border tomorrow. I was invited, but Your Sister vetoed so she could have alone time with her. But she didn't tell the friend, and a recent phone message suggests she bought theatre tickets and restaurant reservations for me too. I assume the tickets are for my old theatre's current production of Carousel, one of those big musicals, and I wouldn't mind seeing it. But as I type, I'm not planning on going. I have to let the womenfolk straighten it out.

I do have a theatre meeting tomorrow so the summer slate can be nailed down. I have to inform the committee that my mom actress is officially out of the one-act, and that complicates matters. With so many planned shows, who is left to take that role? Also, that means we have to practically start from scratch for rehearsals, and that feels like the choriest chore that ever chored. I dread this. I think it's a lot to ask for a cast to go through rehearsals and performances for the same show twice in three months' time. If there's an opportunity to back out, I'll take it. But we have the longest one-act out of all the suggested plays, and we would anchor each night of performances. They need our show.

In the News
This from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An 88-year-old white supremacist has been charged with murder for killing the security guard who had opened the door to let him into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum, officials said Thursday.

Security Guard Stephen T. Johns was shot to death Wednesday by Holocaust denier James von Brunn, who had left his car in a lane of traffic outside an entrance to the museum before walking in with a concealed rifle, District Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a news conference.

Von Brunn, who once tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve, started shooting immediately, exchanging fire with guards who shot and critically injured him, stopping him from entering the museum and hurting anyone else, Lanier said.

In his car, officers found a notebook with a handwritten note saying, "You want my weapons - this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews," according to a court affidavit.

The museum was closed and flags flew at half-staff Thursday in honor of Johns, 39. Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said quick work by law enforcement "literally saved the lives of countless people."

That Homeland Security Domestic Terrorism report is looking more correct every week.

I clearly recall our trip to that museum. The patrol dogs and the metal detectors were impressive enough, but Your Sister had to drink from her water bottle to prove she wasn't carrying acid. A representative of a security guard union says the guard should have been given a bulletproof vest. I'm not sure how effective they are against rifles such as the shooter carried.

This is the third politically motivated shooting in a month, along with the Army recruiters killed in Arkansas, and the abortion provider in Kansas. This latest shooter is yet another true believer who accepted the unfounded rumor that the new administration was trying to guns. Then again, he was a rabid ass, and he shrugged off logic long ago. Given his previous arrests, I wonder if he was legal to have guns. And, if so, how.

News Picture of the Day
Also from the AP wire:

A supporter of leading challenger and reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, wearing a cape of the party's color green, joins thousands of supporters from both political groupings as they roam the streets at night amidst a festive atmosphere, in Valiasr square in central Tehran, Iran, late at night on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Iranians go to the polls on Friday, June 12, 2009 after a hotly contested election campaign pitting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger and reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, amongst others. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Thursday, June 11

The Plan Was Cupcakes.

We received a letter from our dial-up internet provider saying that they were dumping our county. Well, hell. We had discussed moving to high-speed through another company, and this more than nudges us to that option. We'll get wireless for Your Sister's school laptop too.

I avoided high-speed for a few reasons. First, it was too expensive, but we just closed my student loan, and money has become available. Most important, I can easily find myself addicted to web material. No, not THAT material. I mean games. I used to love my PC games, and they gradually moved to online play with multiple players. I dropped those games because of this; I didn't want to drift along with them and lose all contact with sunlight. I don't think I'll return to them when we get the fast connections, but I will be wary.

On the way home yesterday, I planned to run into the grocery store and buy cupcakes. But the store only offered mutant cupcakes that didn't fit my image for dessert. I like my cupcakes small. Muffiny. These looked like frosted croissants. I spied half a red velvet cake, which I know Your Sister adores. I also grabbed a number candle. As I was headed to the register, I rethought the half cake. It wasn't enough. A full cake was called for. Also, if Your Sister visits her college buddy this weekend, she can take half of it for them to eat while they catch up. Back to the bakery section. Five minutes later, I arrived home and met her at the door.

"Oh, wow. A cake," she said.
"Yeah. You know, just something for the anniversary."
"... [blink, blink] AWWWWWWWWWW. I SUCK."
"No no. You're busy. It's a busy week."
"It's okay. You've been buried in grades."
"Come on. Look. Cake."
"You should have married the other one."
"Fine. I'll eat all the cake."
"I didn't say that."

We made pizza and started the recently arrived DVD of Sex & The City. It's very good. If you enjoyed the series, you'll revel in the film. It's as good a romantic comedy as one can find. Midway through I paused the film and asked if she was ready for cake. She was. I candle-fied it.

Your Sister is now through with classes. She's babysitting two students today who are making up class time. She had a conference with the Door Pounder, his wife, and their daughter yesterday, and it went fine. I can shoulder my husband fury for now. It's simply hyperactive chivalry that longs to dispense a clobbering on her behalf. A sound trashing awaits the scalawag who besmirches her. Boppity boppity boppity.

Wednesday, June 10


Four years ago, within a span of two hours, Your Sister and I bought a house and married. This was only two weeks after I asked her to marry me. I picked up the ring from the jeweler's on Monday, May 23, and asked Your Parents' permission later that afternoon. Your Dad offered only this word of advice: "Never play Scrabble for points." Has he met Your Sister? She washes dishes for points.

The next day, we put in the bid for the house and heard back within 48 hours. Suddenly, we had acreage and plumbing and carpeting and realized we needed to get married before we could move in. Marriage became an immediate matter, not just an abstraction for the weeks between semesters.

Technically, she asked me to marry her. It was nonchalant. This was in my Mayberry apartment, right across the parking lot from hers. "I guess we need to marry now. How about it? Will you marry me?" I called a time-out and said we need to do this right. She didn't know I had the ring yet, and my preparation started the tears. I ran into the bedroom to get the ring, sat next to her on the couch, and delivered the most important sales pitch of my life. It hinged on a plain declaration. "You're the best woman I've ever met." The gist of it was that she's the kind of woman a man -- a wise man -- has to marry because he will never meet a woman one iota better. I still believe that. And I'm ridiculously in love with her. She tackled me as an acceptance.

The next day was her birthday. She said later that she was glad I wasn't proposing to her on her birthday because that would be lame. I confessed that was my plan. Oh well.

Two weeks later, we picked up the marriage license on my lunch break after lying to the boss about why I'd be late for work. Work was hosting a giant formal ceremony, and she would have exploded with anxiety if she knew we were marrying that same weekend. The next day, we signed the house paperwork (Warning: home ownership begins with a half hour of signatures.) and stood in front of the judge with four teachers as witnesses.

I went back to work and returned to town few hours later. I pulled into our new driveway, past our new mailbox, and met Your Sister at our new door. The neighbors came over to introduce themselves, and we all realized at the same time that we already knew each other. He drove school buses, and she was in my community-college Spanish classes. When Your Sister said we just got married, the neighbor wife grabbed her husband's arm and said, "We need to leave them alone. Bye!"

We ate Cornish hen on the floor where we'd later place our table, and we slept on the bedroom floor. Our first night as a married couple. The next day, we boxed up the apartments and began organizing the house for the move.

The next clear thing I recall is that the oven went kaput about two weeks later when the thermostat gave up the ghost. Oven quickly replaced; problem quickly solved. It was our first household emergency, and we already knew we could work around it. We had no doubt. That might be the firmament of our relationship: We have each other's back, and I know she can handle the unexpected and inconvenient. I think she knows that of me.

It doesn't feel like four years. Not at all. According to tradition, this is the "fruit/flowers" anniversary. Phooey to fruit. I'm thinking of buying her cupcakes.

+ + +

Her first teacher conference went well, and the parent acknowledged that blame lay squarely on the student. Today, she talks to the ass who pounded her door Monday. If he's not nice, I'll pound him.

Picture of the Day
As part of his USO tour of Baghdad, Steven Colbert shaved his head in front of the troops.

That's the chief of the multi-national force doing the honors. Obama appeared via video to formally order the four-star general to make with the shearing. You can watch it here.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama Orders Stephen's Haircut - Ray Odierno
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

Tuesday, June 9

This Is Why I Don't Teach.

I called my cast to ask if they wanted to do the one-act again and if they were available. The lead actress was already questionable; she's on the record against memorizing the script for a full stage version. I did try to steer the theatre toward the radio format, but they haven't bitten yet. I'm not sure who we'd get to replace our lead. There are some options, but they might be tied up by the other summer shows, and this is exactly the concern I initially had with this project: not enough actors for too many shows.

The other actors are aboard and said they'd start learning the script. I'd like to get some official schedule from the theatre. We may have five groups of actors for only two rehearsal spaces.

I returned home and planted myself at the small table to mark up research papers. I stayed there for about six hours. My half of the proofing is now done, and Your Sis can focus on the hundred other things required before Friday. She accidentally dodged an angry parent yesterday -- a parent who apparently didn't bother to read emails or listen to the phone messages that told him all semester that his daughter was failing. Now he's mad. We know this because he was spotted pounding her locked door after school while she was on bus duty. The principal wants her to have a conference with this yahoo, and I told her to demand the principal also sit in. Not that there's much to discuss. The girl plagiarized her paper. That's an automatic zero.

Another parent was upset by the grade handed down by the local college board. The board grades some senior papers to prepare the kids for collegiate standards. The student failed. The parent demanded it be graded again. And it was. The paper got a lower grade. The parent was not amused.

I've offered before to shadow Your Sister in such cases. I can easily come to the school and present myself as another concerned parent. I can stick near her classroom and make sure the morons behave themselves. If the goddamn school can't assure the safety of teachers, I will. I don't even have to use a fake name.

This happens every year. Parents stay ignorant of their kids' grades and find out when it's much too late to do something. Your Sis sent messages to parents virtually every weekend for a month, but only in the very last days do the warnings sink in. It's no wonder the kids think they can pass by asking nicely and making puppy eyes.

Another teacher is facing an outraged parent objecting to Kite Runner for a summer reading requirement. There is an option in place of moral indignation: the student takes on another project to make up the grade. The parent, however, says this singles out her daughter unfairly. Again, kids are being taught that rules are unfair and can be subverted by pouting. I suggested to the teacher that the child simply be moved to another class. If she or the parent doesn't want to take advantage of options for that level of English, the kid can enroll in the next lowest level.

I mean, I agree no kid should read Kite Runner, but not on moral grounds. The book is crap. I practically threw it against the wall when I saw a cynical prediction come true. I told Your Sis that if a certain character returned to frustrate the adult narrator, the book would be the worst thing ever written. And he does. And it is. And I almost punched a book.

Picture of the Day
This might be blog House overkill.

Monday, June 8

Fight Your Garden

Friday was a non-event. Nothing evented at all that day, and we'll slide right past.

I had only planned to weed the garden Saturday morning, but plans expanded when I realized how much weeding was required. Luckily, the ground is so pasty, so goopy, that I could simply shave the soil by scraping the top inch away with the shovel. Since I found myself with a shovel in hand, I decided to plant another section of corn. The first corn batch is slowly emerging, but it looks thin. I left one end of the garden bare, and it's just the right size for making the world's easiest corn maze.

Unfortunately, that section hides the immortal vine monster what lurks beneath our garden. I don't know what it is. It's not the berry bushes we wrenched up a few years back. It's some other insidious creature, one with thick roots sprawling all over. This was the hardest part of planting the news seeds. I hacked at it with the shovel blade and yanked the roots up as I could. It's a thick fiber, and it comes up in feet. I'm sure it looked like I was harvesting octopus. Or Sarlacc. I eventually had three trenches, and I filled those with compost from the bin.

That bin is suddenly rank. We didn't have that trouble before, and I suspect the charcoals from last year's grilling. I'd bet money the grill drippings coated the coals, and I was smelling the residue. Nothing else we put in would turn like that. It smelled like diapers, which I assume is great fodder for the garden but, hokey smoke, is shoveling sunshine-warmed poo dirt the worst job first thing in the morn. But it went quick, and I popped in my corn seeds, and now we may have more than one successful stalk.

I helped Your Sis grade papers all day afterward. We hunkered down in front of ESPN/ABC's six hours of horse-racing coverage and made our marks and discussed teaching tactics. I favor the use of pop-culture to get kids involved. For instance, there's a sports-talk TV show called Around the Horn that allows four sports reporters to debate each other for points. The lowest points in each round eliminate a reporter until one is left standing. I think she should use this in class and make her kids debate story elements in front of the class. They don't play for grades but for argument skills needed for timed test sections. For the record, in the few times she has been able to inject pop culture into class discussions, the kids eat it up. It keeps them attuned.

I got a call from the theatre folk asking about the new one-act package show. They are suggesting we add more shows. Yes, really. And I thought the compost smelled bad. This augurs so ill, and my expectations dwindle more and more. The theatre is bleeding audience; the show that just closed averaged 15 people a night. That's inexcusable. It should shock people into making big, smart decisions for using the theater's resources. Instead, they're throwing all the pasta on the wall, and I am very, very tempted to back out of the one-act package before it cranks up.

On Sunday I drove back to Spartanburg for a family reunion. There were about sixty folks there -- some I knew well, some I never otherwise see or recognize. Mom got to see the pictures of Your Sis on the bike and was shocked by them. Everyone is surprised by this. Me, not so much. She didn't talk about getting a bike very often, but she always enjoyed seeing them in action movies. How many times have we watched Trinity slip through enemy traffic in the second Matrix film? Couldn't tell you. But it has a bike, and thus it was consumed muchly.

I also gave Mom a digital copy of our casual prom pictures which I shall also now share with ye.

She's so damn cute.

That's one of her students' left arm in the top right picture, but it does look like it's my arm from the picture next to it. We don't have enough pictures of the two of us. I wants more.

I got home earlier than I expected and listened to a Mercury Radio production of Dracula on the drive back. I went back to the papers while Your Sis travailed at school, and we met up for a late supper. She has one big week left of students, and I intend to clobber these papers with her and finish them tomorrow night.